BIG HORN — Tongue River had just cut the lead to four near the end of the third quarter. Things were looking good for the Lady Eagles, who had fought back from an eight-point deficit. They finally had life.
Big Horn ended that Tongue River glimmer of hope in short order, scoring eight quick points to end the quarter and putting the game out of reach. The Lady Rams ended up with a 47-28 win, sweeping the season series against the Lady Eagles.
Big Horn improved to 4-3 in conference, while Tongue River dropped to 2-5. Courtney Wallach had a game-high 22 points, including nine in a row in the fourth quarter to extend the Lady Rams’ lead.
Tongue River repeatedly sent her to the charity stripe, where she converted 11 of 14 shots and seven of 10 in the final frame.
The Lady Rams second-half offense made the difference, as they opened up a double-digit lead early in the fourth. The big lead forced the Lady Eagles out of their 3-2 zone defense that gave Big Horn trouble for most of the first half.
Big Horn head coach Michael McGuire said the second-half shooting was probably the best shooting stretch for the Lady Rams all season long. Big Horn hit five 3-pointers in the second half and seven total on the night, three from Wallach.
The Lady Rams defense stepped up in the second half as well. Big Horn changed into a half-court trap defense, which caused a few turnovers.
“We decided to kind of switch it up and go with a little bit of trap and force their hand a little bit and make them play faster than they wanted to,” McGuire said.
The Lady Rams couldn’t convert most of the turnovers into points, but took the Tongue River offense out of rhythm.
The first half was a different story, as both teams struggled to score against stout defense. Brittany Fillingham hit a corner jumper to make it 7-5 Big Horn with 4:30 left in the first quarter, and both teams went on extended droughts.
Zaveah Kobza broke the nearly eight-minute scoreless streak for both teams with a floater to tie it at 7 midway through the second quarter. It was the only time all game that Big Horn didn’t lead, as the Lady Rams nearly took the game wire-to-wire.
Holly Hutchinson made a free throw with 20 seconds left in the second quarter, which looked to be the final point of the half, but Sydney Schmidt made a great play to end the second quarter.
Schmidt picked off a pass near the left wing with a few seconds left, dribbled and took a deep 3-pointer right before the buzzer. Nothing but net. Big Horn took a 14-10 lead into halftime.
Wallach then went on a personal 5-0 run to start the third quarter, converting two free throws and draining a 3 a couple minutes later.
The Lady Eagles then flipped the tables, getting steals and turning them into layups. A layup from Fillingham cut the lead to 22-18 with 1:10 left to give life to Tongue River, but the Lady Rams had their offensive explosion to conclude the quarter.
Jordan Frank hit a jumper, then got a steal and nailed a 3. Alisyn Hutton then hit a deep 3 on the next possession right before the buzzer, giving the Lady Rams a 30-18 advantage. The lead never dropped below nine points in the fourth quarter, giving Big Horn an easy victory.
Tongue River head coach Tyler Hanson credited the Big Horn defense with forcing the Lady Eagles into man defense. Tongue River also had free throw troubles all night, only making six of 17 from the line.
Still, the Lady Eagles had excellent effort and got decent shots offensively, but couldn’t convert enough of their good looks.
“No matter what that scoreboard said, our energy and effort was right where we needed it to be in order to be competitive through the rest of conference play,” Hanson said.
Big Horn travels Saturday to Wright, while Tongue River hosts Moorcroft in its final home game of the season. Both games begin at 2:30 p.m.
Tongue River….5 5 8 10 — 28
Big Horn……..7 7 16 17 — 47
Tongue River — Fillingham 7, Hutchinson 7, Perfetti 6, Zoba 5, Bocek 2, Good 1
Big Horn — Wallach 22, A. Hutton 12, Frank 6, Schmidt 3, Gee 2, Trabert 2